Magazine article St. Louis Journalism Review

Ashcroft Aide Tries to Intimidate Reporters

Magazine article St. Louis Journalism Review

Ashcroft Aide Tries to Intimidate Reporters

Article excerpt

At least one veteran St. Louis television reporter is warning colleagues to "keep an eye" out for an aide to Missouri Sen. John Aschroft. The alert follows a testy and bizarre encounter between reporters and the aide during a recent Ashcroft appearance in St. Louis.

In mid-January, the reporters were at St. Louis city public school headquarters to cover a meeting between the senator and School Superintendent Cleveland Hammonds. The meeting was private, but Ashcroft was scheduled to meet with the press afterward.

As the reporters waited, they were discussing whether to place their microphones and tape recorders on the table or assemble them on the podium. That's when the senator's aide, Joe Messmer, instructed the reporters that they were to "crowd around the senator," holding their mikes in their hands, for the full duration of the news conference. His tone was described as "hostile."

The reaction of the reporters and camera crews could best be described as "perplexed." Here they were, waiting in the school-board meeting room, with tables, chairs and a podium; a perfect setting for a news conference. But this aide was insisting, and in animated fashion, that they "crowd around the senator with microphones in hand."

The television reporter mentioned earlier, a woman who has been on the air in St. Louis for some 25 years, informed Messmer that she and the other reporters would be placing their gear on the podium, and that if the senator wanted to do the interview, he could do so there. …

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